New 'Downton Abbey' movie inspires teas, fashion shows

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

"Downton Abbey" fans who've been in withdrawal since the beloved Masterpiece show went off the air in 2015 can breathe a sign of the relief. Not only does the "Downton" movie premiere this week but the good times don't have to end when the film credits do.

From "Downton Abbey"-inspired teas to fashion shows, Metro Detroiters can get swept up into the post-Edwardian England just a little longer this fall, reveling in the customs, clothes and traditions.

Michelle Dockery starred as often acerbic Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey.”

The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham is hosting a "Downton Abbey"-inspired Tea on Sunday that will include tea and talks from two experts. Guests are encouraged to wear the fashions of the era, including hats. Tickets are $70.

Tea expert Barbara Gulley, who owns a tea service company in southeast Michigan with her daughter and has even visited Highclere Castle in England which serves as the backdrop for "Downton Abbey,"  will do a presentation about the customs and dining etiquette in the time of "Downton Abbey."

But no worries about spoilers if you won't see the movie before Sunday's tea: tea director Lisa Klein said Gulley will stop at the year in which the movie is set, 1927. 

"We've done 'Downton Abbey' teas before but will be the first one we've had with the movie coming out," said Klein. "We're excited."

Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills is currently hosting "A Servant's Life" tours through the end of September that explore the role of servants at the 88,000 square foot home.

The movie -- which follows the Crawley family and its staff in early 20th century England -- picks up in 1927 and centers on the royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Downton Abbey.

The movie's premiere on Thursday comes just as Metro Detroit's closest version of Downton Abbey, Meadow Brook Hall, the 88,000-square-foot home of auto heiress Matilda Dodge Wilson and her second husband, Alfred, is having its own "Abbey"-inspired tours, "A Servant's Life."

Meadow Brook Hall's sold out tours, "A Servant's Life," take guests behind the scenes of the Rochester Hills estate to examine the lives of those who worked there. The tours will return for a limited time in February.

The tours, which kicked off in early September and are already sold out, focus on the lives of the staff that worked for Matilda Dodge Wilson, husband Alfred and their children. The Wilsons had between 25-29 servants who worked for them at one time and lived on the estate, said Katie Higgins, Meadow Brook's Marketing and Communications Manager.

Higgins said the "Downton" movie has definitely piqued interest in their tours. They'll bring them back for select dates in February next year. 

The tour is an "an immersive experience that explores the downstairs life of the real people who lived and worked at Meadow Brook Hall in the late 1920s and beyond," said Higgins in an email.

The Madison Heights Public Library, meanwhile, will host a Downton Abbey-inspired fashion show on Saturday. Presented and curated by a group called Fashion & the Automobile, the show will feature fashion from 1912, when the show's story begins, to 1927. The show runs from 1-2 p.m. in the Breckenridge Room. 


'Downton' Delight

  • Downton Abbey Fashion Show: 1-2 p.m. Saturday, Madison Heights Public Library, 230 W. 13 Mile Road. Free to the public. Located in the Breckenridge Room. Doors open at 12:30 p.m.
  • "Downton Abbey" Inspired Tea: 12-1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Townsend Hotel, 100 Townsend Street, Birmingham. Tickets are $70. Go to and click on "Our Hotel" and "Event Calendar."
  • Dinner and A Movie at Downton Abbey: 6:15-11 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial, 32 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms. General admission is $50; VIP admission, which includes a cocktail reception in the historic Alger house, and preferred dinner and show seating is $90. Go
  • “A Servant’s Life” tours: Tours that go behind the scenes of the staff at Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester Hills are sold out for September, but will return for a limited time in February. Go to